Companies find benefits in flex-time

More than three-quarters of companies now offer flex-time as a way to keep workers happy while maintaining the corporate bottom line. That's an increase of 10% from a decade ago, a study says. Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.

KAI RYSSDAL: The balancing act between happy workers and the corporate bottom line can be a tricky one. So both sides are trying to find mutually agreeable solutions. Increasingly, the answer lies in flex-time -- letting employees work, within limits, when they want. It doesn't cost companies anything in actual cash on the barrelhead. It can improve morale. And it's becoming more of the norm. According to a study out today from the Families and Work Institute, more than three-quarters of companies now offer flex-time, up 10 percent from a decade ago. Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: These days, employers have no choice about offering workers more choices. Listen to financial analyst Janice Pappas. The 22-year-old didn't even apply for a stressful, though lucrative, investment banking position.

JANICE PAPPAS: I wasn't interested in being there until 2, 3 in the morning, and I knew that was part of the job.

Pappas decided normal hours were more important than money. Attorney Lydia Wong came to the same conclusion after the birth of her second child.

LYDIA WONG: The flexibilty is worth more than anything material.

Wong left a law firm for a temp job at a nonprofit.

The Families and Work Institute survey found that non profits generally offered the best benefits. Everyone wants flexibility. Young workers expect it. Baby boomers want to phase in retirement by working reduced hours. Of course, flex-time is more of a challenge for some businesses, like call centers.

Shannon DiBari is an HR expert at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

SHANNON DIBARI: Because you need somebody to answer that phone. So you have to be a little more creative.

The creative solution for airlines like Continental? Let some ticket agents work from home.

Ellen Galinsky is president of the Families and Work Institute. She says more employers started offering flex-time after they lost key workers.

ELLEN GALINSKY: They were leaving because they just couldn't manage their life in the way that they were working.

Employers are less flexible in some areas. Galinsky's study says 47 percent allow employees to go back and forth between full- and part-time work. That's down from 57 percent in 1998.